The government needs to be looking at creating safe spaces for such children. Just removing them and producing them before CWC will not solve the issue as the traffickers of these children will arrange to produce the parents and get them released and this vicious circle will go on. Good and safe spaces with good counseling facilities where these children can go to in the beach area itself is one way that these children can be deterred or rescued from begging.
Not withstanding the tourism department’s ban on vendors and hawkers on beaches, a visit to the popular Baga-Calangute-Candolim stretch reveals that a large number of such individuals, including children as young as five years old, do brisk business. They are often found selling illuminated bangles, wrist bands, and other items till as late as 2am.
People in the know estimate that over 300 children either sell or beg at this beach stretch. Neville Proenca, a hotelier and social worker, told TOI that these children are hired on a monthly salary of Rs 2,000 by their ’employers’.
Inquiries reveal that a majority of these children are trafficked into Goa from the neighbouring states of Maharashtra and Karnataka, but some come even from faraway states like Chattisgarh.
“The Calangute panchayat has been trying hard to drive them away, but it can’t do much without police co-operation,” said Calangute MLA Michael Lobo. “I’m fed up,” he added. Lobo told TOI that just last week, the panchayat attempted to send many beggars away, and even arranged vehicles to drop them off at railway stations. However, it seems, they showed up again in a few days.
Lobo also said that since most of the beggars are minors and girls, IRB personnel don’t nab them for fear of facing false allegations. “If anything happens to any one of those kids on the beach, Goa’s image will take a beating as it happened when Scarlett Keeling was found dead,” said Lobo.